MAURITIUS STRUGGLES TO RETURN TO WINNING WAY
Stark news have emerged from available tourism statistics for the first half of 2012, confirming fears and doubts by the Mauritius hospitality industry, that indeed the once overwhelming lead in arrival numbers and appeal to holiday travelers choosing to visit the Indian Ocean islands, has now waned and given way to new favourites Maldives.
Inspite of the political troubles in that island state, arrival figures appear to have overtaken those of Mauritius now, and Sri Lanka has kept up the pressure, still behind Mauritius but well on the way to also overtake them if the current trend continues.
According to data received, Mauritius in 2011 received 964.642 visitors, missing the coveted one million mark by a mere 35.000 plus, while the Maldives clocked 931.333 arrivals and Sri Lanka came third with 855.957 visitors.
The clearest indicators of the current trends though are growth rates, where the Maldives for 2011 recorded an astonishing 18 percent, again inspite of the political troubles, the reported doubling of airport fees and the temporary ban on Spas, while Sri Lanka clocked over 30 percent increase compared to a very poor 2010 when political troubles kept many would be visitors away.
The Seychelles, small but beautiful and committed to keep any notion of mass tourism as far away from the image of the archipelago as possible, still recorded an 11 percent increase in arrivals while Mauritius came off miserably in comparison with only a 3.2 percent rise in arrivals from 2010 to 2011.
A report by the Mauritius Hotel and Restaurant Association in fact claims that for the first six months of 2012 Mauritius has lost percentage ground while other competitors in the Indian Ocean continue to experience growth in the face of a harsher economic environment in their common core markets. Limited air access and wrong promotional direction and focus are the main factors cited for the developments and pressure seems to be growing exponentially now for a decisive change at the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, where CEO Karl Mootoosamy of late engaged in a prolonged trench warfare with his expressed enemy Seychelles before being pulled back sharply by his Minister of Tourism and the MTPA Chairman who calmed the stormy waters created by several reported outbursts and obvious slights from Mr. Karl. Sections of the Mauritius tourism fraternity are now openly lobbying for a change of leadership at MTPA and the introduction of private sector minded individuals to create a new tag line, a new image and develop a new strategy of how best to tap into new and emerging markets and to promote Mauritius strong points instead of trying to downtalk competing islands.
And only too true that is, as the massive shift in fortunes in the Seychelles demonstrates, after the civil service mindset at STB was changed a few years ago and a new spirit of private public partnership injected when Alain St. Ange took over first as Director of Tourism Marketing, was then promoted to CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board before being appointed in March to the cabinet position as Minister of Tourism and Culture. Lessons to be learned but seemingly lost on the current breed of leadership at MTPA, so change is in the air and change is coming according to a regular source from Mauritius. Watch this space.